This weekend brought with it that one yearly occasion that fills me with dread – my son’s birthday party.
The thought of entertaining a large group of excitable school children is a daunting one. You want your child to have a memorable birthday, but at the same time you want to try to keep hold of your sanity.
Initially I put forward the suggestion of not having a party at all this year, of doing something low key, just the family – but this proposal was met with the kind of look you might give someone who has just urinated on the floor in front of you.
So while discussing party options, I suggested one of those nice venue-organised ones, where the parents hand over a wad of cash and someone else does all the groundwork and clears up the devastation.
I also suggested a trip to the cinema, which has the potential to keep them still and quiet for up to 90 minutes. But no, what he really wanted was to take 15 of his nearest and dearest down to Southsea skate park.
Planning a party is always a traumatising experience. You find yourself worrying if anyone will actually turn up, if the weather is going to be good or if anything will get damaged or broken? And in this case, the later concern stretched to the delicate bones of more children than there are ambulances in Portsmouth.
So on the morning of his birthday I reflected on how seven years ago I had been at the hospital in labour, while at the same time quietly praying I would not that day also be visiting the hospital via the A&E unit.
But this year I really got lucky and I do appreciate that – everyone turned up, the weather couldn’t have been better and all the kids went home in almost the same condition they arrived in.
Luckily the only major casualty was the screen of my new phone, which obtained a lovely crackled effect after a failed attempt to do something silly on a skateboard (this never would have happened to my hardy old Nokia, which could withstand free falling down a staircase and multiple exchanges with hard concrete, reconfirming to me that I am not the type of person who should venture into the world of flashy technology).
So thankfully I have survived another year and am once again filled with admiration for parents who have to organise more than one of these every year, because the planning has left me behind in virtually every other aspect of my life.
I have spent more time at work Googling party games than actually working, housework has been put aside while I filled tiny plastic bags with tiny plastic things and recent shopping involved purchasing miniature versions of actual food as well as every type of crisp known to man.
So back to normality this week and my kitchen cupboards are bare once more, while my pile of washing looks scarily similar in size to the pile of work on my desk – but at least I can face parents in the playground this week knowing that I managed not to break their children for another year.